Easter 3, Year A, April 26, 2020

Title:Easter 3, Year A, April 26, 2020

The bulletin is here

Today’s service featured a variety of musical numbers The First three from St. Peter’s 1. Marilyn Newman, harp, “Morning is Broken” 2. Nancy Long “We know that Christ is raised”, acapella 3 Laura Long “Now the green blade riseth” with piano accompaniment 4. “I love the Lord” Imani-Grace Cooper from the National Cathedral based on the psalm reading today, Psalm 116 and accompanied by piano and alto sax.

We had Powerpoints featured Earth Day pictures and bread pictures from parishioners, including the Andersons, Felicianos, Sylvia Sellers, Barbara Wisdom, Andrea Pogue, Elizabeth Heimbach. Nancy Long and Marilyn Newman. Elizabeth for submitted a prayer, and to Cookie and Johnny Davis for serving as lectors today. We also had the presence of at least 3 cats (from Nancy, Catherine and Karen) and a dog. Zoom church provides an interactivesness that we do not usually experience. The fellowship in the Zoom church is appropriate with today’s readings in inviting us to larger relationship with Christ.

The sermon covers both the Psalm and the Gospel on the “Road to Emmaus”. Jesus accepts the two disciples’ invitation and goes in to stay with them. “The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is my favorite resurrection story this year. I feel such kinship to Cleopas and his friend. They remind me of me right now. Walking down a road, often shaken, feeling sad, and caught up in distress.

“As they walk, these two disciples are sharing their inmost feelings and confusions and distress and grief with one another. And Jesus hears them! Across time and space, the resurrected Lord hears their grief and sorrow.

“And we can be sure that when our lives get broken wide open, Jesus will come to us. Jesus will walk with us. Jesus will stay with us. And Jesus understands the pain of being broken, because he himself was broken by his own suffering and death on a cross.

“All that happened to Jesus had broken the disciple’s hearts so that they could only feel grief and uncertainty and sadness.

“But Jesus reminded them as he broke the bread at the table on that evening of the first day of the resurrection that broken things can reveal more than we could ever ask or imagine. When he broke the bread, he revealed his identity.

“Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him

“Jesus had been with them all along, walking along with them in their distress, staying with them when they asked, and now showing them the wholeness of life in the breaking apart of the bread.

Jesus is the wholeness in the brokenness all around us. Jesus is the joy in the sorrow, the light in the darkness, the life that conquers all of death.

Today’s readings invite us into fellowship with the resurrected Christ and with each other. The reading from Acts tells how faith in the resurrected Jesus empowers the fledgling community of believers. 1 Peter further explores the redemptive work of Jesus, who ransoms us from emptiness and exile. Finally, the risen Jesus teaches two disciples from the scriptures and shares a meal with them, establishing a pattern we still follow in our weekly liturgy.

The reading from Acts is the first of the major summaries to link together the specific events and teachings of Luke’s narrative. These verses give an overview of the Church’s life and growth. Verse 42 mentions four aspects of that life. The “apostles’ teaching” was carried on both in public and within the community. Likewise the community continued to offer “the prayers” both at the temple and in the community.

The “fellowship” (Greek, koinonia) was apparent especially in the sharing of resources. This probably meant not an automatic divestiture of all possessions, but the placing of one’s assets at the disposal of the community to be used as needed. The “breaking of the bread” probably indicates a common meal that included the Lord’s Supper at which the table-fellowship of the apostles with the risen Lord was extended to the community.

1 Peter further explores the redemptive work of Jesus, who ransoms us from emptiness and exile. Believers are exhorted to a standard of life that reflects what God has done for them. The appropriate response to God’s greatness and goodness is behavior pleasing to God.

The image of ransoming, or redemption, is taken from the Old Testament where it has both a secular and a theological use. In Hebrew society an enslaved person or alienated land was bought back by the next-of-kin, and the first-born was bought back by the family. In the New Testament, the metaphor of the legal transaction of redemption is of great significance. Jesus applies the term to his death, and Paul also speaks of the price of Jesus’ blood. The term redemption is used most often, however, in the general sense of paying the price.

In the Gospel reading from Luke the risen Jesus teaches two disciples from the scriptures and shares a meal with them, establishing a pattern we still follow in our weekly liturgy. As the Rev. Randy Hollerith reminded us in the National Cathedral that there was the first recorded Eucharist after the resurrection.

The image above is a wonderful Tiffany stained glass window at St. George’s Episcopal and is based on the Gospel from Luke, showing Jesus and the two companions going to Emmaus. This window is loaded with most of Tiffany’s techniques of glass and color. Christ faces toward us, but the men are turned inward, a compositional device that gives the illusion of depth. The robes are made of drapery glass which shows the folds in their garments. Glass while molten thrown onto an iron table and rolled into a disk. The glassmaker armed with tongs manipulated the mass and by taking hold of it from both ends like dough and pulling and twisting till it fell into folds. The faces of Christ and the two individuals were hand painted with enamel.

The window shows the disciples are clearly perplexed about this stranger they encounter along the road.  The two disciples on the way to Emmaus share the popular view of Jesus as a prophet and point to the hope that Jesus was in fact the expected prophet-like-Moses, "to redeem Israel" which in their mind would lead to the elimination of the Romans.  In the window above they are stunnded the unknown traveler doesn’t know what has happened in Jerusalem.

As Cleopas and his companion walk toward Emmaus, they ache with an enormous void. It is a measure of Jesus’ vibrant personality that his death creates such emptiness. Clearly he was no shadow who passed unnoticed through the disciples’ lives. His exchange with these disciples bears the marks of honest speech: it is blunt, the language of rough roads, not the polite conversation of cocktail parties. They address him like the village idiot: “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” (Luke 24:18). He responds in kind: “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart…” (Luke 24:25). Not much political correctness here!

There is also a gradual shift in images. As Jesus interprets the scriptures, the disciples start to forget the bloody face and the bruised corpse. They are drawn into a clear understanding of the prophets and the necessity for Jesus’ suffering. Their hearts burn again, this time not with the persistent ache, but with the joy of recognizing the risen Lord.   

The breaking of the bread was the epiphany as they now recognize Jesus. This postresurrection table fellowship with Jesus links the feeding during his early ministry and the pledge at the Last Supper with the eucharistic experiences of the early Church. Although Jesus’ physical presence is withdrawn, his self-revelation in scripture and his manifestation in the eucharist remain. The pattern of word and sacrament in the story becomes that of the Christian liturgy and life that we enjoy today.

After an exhausting seven-mile trudge, they are energized to repeat their steps: without resting, they return to Jerusalem, their feet barely touching the ground. Clearly the community is revived with what they tell them about their encounter with Christ.

Father Frank Sokol finds in their story a paradigm for us all. Jesus’ question, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” (Luke 24:17) translates to “What are your daily concerns?” Jesus then injects this ordinary stuff with divine light. He shows them how scripture has direct bearing on their present sorrow and he reveals himself in the breaking of bread.

The disciples model the Christian response by offering hospitality to the hungry, homeless stranger late at night. In the stranger, they then discover the face of Christ. We, too, hearing the gospel, ask ourselves, what does it call us to do? The roads we travel, like the one to Emmaus, are holy paths.

David Lose on Emmaus

“Emmaus Door” – Janet Brook-Gerloff

“As we look at this week’s passage, I’m struck that there is also a fair amount of creativity, resiliency, and faithfulness on display as well. Luke, certainly, exercises considerable creativity in crafting and sharing a story none of the other Evangelists include. And in that story, two disciples are renewed in their faith by their encounter with Jesus and granted the resiliency to turn around and head back the seven miles to Jerusalem to share word of their encounter even though it was now evening.

““The Road to Emmaus” is a familiar and, for many of us, favorite story. This year, however, it’s also a poignant one. I’ve long thought that Luke crafted this story to point his readers – persons who likely had never met or seen Jesus – to Sunday worship as the place where they would be encountered by the Risen Lord and have their hearts warmed by faith and fellowship. For surely it is no accident that the four parts of the story – Jesus meeting them amid their journey, interpreting Scripture, giving thanks and breaking bread, and then departing again for witness – model so closely the ancient and dominant pattern of worship that includes gathering, Word, meal, and sending. What’s poignant, of course, is that we will not physically experience this rhythm this week… or perhaps for many weeks. And to hear Luke describe it narratively is, quite honestly, a bit painful in the middle of our social distancing and isolation.

“And yet amid this poignancy I find three elements of profound possibility, and I hope these may buoy you in faith this week.

“First, I am struck once again that Jesus meets the disciples on the road. This is more than a symbolic representation of the gathering rites of our worship, this is an actual promise that Jesus always meets us where we are, whether in celebration or mourning, whether in victory or defeat, whether in gladness or sorrow, whether in times of heath or sickness or even pandemic. We are on a journey… as congregations, as leaders, as Christians, and as a society – both national and global – and Jesus regularly shows up midway through the journey, while we’re still on the road, to encourage us, accept us, and embolden us.

“Second, while I typically read the story of the meal that the disciples and Jesus share as representing Communion – compare the description of Jesus at the Last Supper and that here (22:19, 24:30) – it occurs me know that’s not a necessary conclusion to reach. (And interestingly, Luke uses the same words to describe Jesus’ feeding of the multitude: 9:16.) To put this another way, I think that this meal (and all of our meals, for that matter!) may be sacramental – that is, holding the potential to mediate the grace and presence of God – without necessarily being a sacrament – that is, containing the promise of Jesus that they will mediate grace.

“Third, I’m encouraged by the fact that it takes a number of people in the New Testament a fair amount of time to recognize Jesus. Whether it’s Nicodemus in John’s story – introduced in chapter three, but not demonstrating any particular faith until he declares himself for Jesus by burying him in chapter nineteen… Or whether it’s all four Gospels reporting the standard reaction of dismay, confusion, doubt and disbelief by the disciples as a whole when word of Jesus’ resurrection reaches them… Or whether it’s that Cleopas and his companion simply don’t recognize Jesus until he blesses and breaks bread with them…. I am encouraged by these delayed professions of faith. Sometimes, faith comes easy. At others, faith can be pretty damn hard and Jesus remarkably difficult to recognize. Either way, Jesus is there, waiting patiently for those he has already called. And that may be just the thing to tell folks who may very well be struggling to see Jesus right now.”